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Milton Gray


10 September 2020 - 6 July 2021


10 September 2020
6 July

Works by

Alex Colville

Milton Gray

About this exhibition

Milton Gray was the first recorded Black student to attend Mount Allison University. His two younger brothers, Fleming “Danny” and Vender, attended later. Milton was only 14 years old when he arrived in Sackville from New York City, in 1941. In 1944, he was drafted by the US military before completing his studies. His brother Danny, who was active in the civil rights movement, recalled his days at Mount Allison in 1945: “I never saw another black person in the surrounding vicinity.” The barber in Sackville would not cut his hair, and a restaurant in Amherst refused to serve him.

Soon after Alex Colville painted this student self-portrait, it was exhibited at the Montreal Art Association—an honour for a graduating student. Viewers were unaware of an unfinished, unidentified portrait on the reverse of the painting. Extra holes on the canvas edge show that it was removed from the stretcher and reversed to paint the self-portrait. Students and local residents often modelled for portrait classes in the Fine Arts Department and, evidently, Milton Gray was one of them.

Images: Alex Colville, untitled (self-portrait, reverse portrait of Milton Gray), 1942, oil on canvas, 76.2 x 63.5 cm. Collection of the Owens Art Gallery. Gift of the Artist. © A.C. Fine Art Inc.

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